This chapter prepares for close literary analysis of The Shepherd of Hermas, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and Joseph and Aseneth by moving through four preliminary discussions. First, the chapter reviews ways that conversion has been conceptualized both as cultural passage and as literary construction across several disciplines, including studies of ancient Judaism and Christianity. Next, it surveys Greco-Roman characterizations of desire as a problem of self-mastery, particularly by ancient moral philosophers, and considers the example of Philo’s treatment of conversion, desire, and self-control. The introduction then samples ancient representations of desire as transformative and productive of virtue, including the play of desire in the ancient romance novels and selections from Plutarch. Finally, the chapter introduces select theories of the narrativity of desire.
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